Happy Thanksgiving to all. I am in the process of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 18 people here in Vila-real, none of whom have ever had a Thanksgiving dinner, so it is not your usual Thanksgiving. And just to warn you, this post may come across as a lot of personal storytelling, which is not my goal. I believe that despite the fact that I am relaying my experiences, many of you may be interested because of what the experiences show about the magnanimity of the club and its people and the city of Vila-real.
I have some great photos and videos that I will be posting upon my return to the US next week, including videos from down on the pitch in an empty El Madrigal, photos from the players' dressing room, and views of the city that I figure many readers might be interested in. I will talk more about it when I post the pictures and videos, but Vila-real is a very beautiful town, with great people, incredible culture, and a very relaxed feel.
Sitting in the stands at El Madrigal to watch the Valladolid match was a very special experience. The 3-1 victory only made it that much sweeter. I will have a lot more about this when I begin to post pics later.
I met President Roig, his daughter Elena who is in charge of PR, and Jose Manuel Llaneza on Sunday after the Valladolid match, and discussed VillarrealUSA and Villarreal's supporters in the US with them. They were very happy about the development of a US fanbase, and welcomed us as a penya. I also met with Martijn, the president of the Belgium penya and four of his fellow Belgian Villarreal supporters, all very nice people. Martijn is assisting me with obtaining penya bylaws in English, and is very supportive of further developing the penya and the development of relations between all international penyas.
If you watched the Valladolid match, you may have noticed, the banner was not hanging in El Madrigal just yet. Because of the timing of my arrival and the match, there was no opportunity to have it up just yet. The club has the banner now, though, and promised that it would be hanging behind the southern goal (to the right when watching on television) next to that of Els Flamencs Grocs. So look for it when watching the next match from Vila-real.
Yesterday, after touring El Madrigal, I attended training and met most of the players (missed out on Godin, Fuster, and Cazorla for various reasons, including Cazorla's rehabilitation. All of them were very easy to talk to (with a translator), very down to earth. Pires and Rossi were the only players that spoke English, but all of them were patient with me when I used the little bit of castellano I have been working on while here. Truly, we support a very special team full of very special players. I had the team sign a large banner that, when VillarrealUSA meets as a penya for the first time, will be hanging on the wall.
While at training, I was briefly interviewed for VillarrealTV. The questions were generally simple, but I was interviewed by someone who did not speak English, and, having been working on my castellano so much while I have been here, my English did not work as well as I would have wanted! So if you see it and I look like an idiot, please forgive me! Later that afternoon, I was interviewed on Radio Vila-real by Javi Mata, who you would recognize from VillarrealTV. I had a translator, which made it easider, as did not being in front of the camera. I will be able to post an MP3 of the interview when I get back to the US.
Last night, I attended the inauguration of the new headquarters for the national penya association, the Agrupación de Peñas. Vicente Belles, the president of the national penya association, spoke, along with President Roig and Marcos Senna (Senna attended with Gonzalo and Javi Venta).
In some news:
With faster access to the internet, I could have had a brief exclusive yesterday. Capdevila injured his knee in practice, but assured me when I spoke with him that he will be available to go this weekend. Later, he related the same to the general media.
The Russian club Rubin Kazan offered 20 million euros for Giuseppe Rossi, which is a lot of money. Rossi had no desire to play in Russia, though, and turned the offer down. On a side note, I have to say that he is a very likeable person. I met him after practice yesterday, and we talked for a few minutes. He was excited about a penya beginning in the US. Not expecting him to accept, I invited him to Thanksgiving dinner - he said he appreciated the offer and would have considered it, but his family was in town and they had plans.
On a related note, President Roig has indicated that the club has no plans to purchase any players this winter. The rumor is that the club is looking to promote Kiko to the first team, and that he would replace Fuentes. A friend of mine spoke with Fuentes recently in Madrid, though, and Fuentes said he knew nothing of a transfer away from the club.
Santi said the other day that he was at about 90%, but that he should be ready to go soon. I watched him in practice yesterday, and other than a little extra attention from the trainers and some rehab after practice, he was at full speed and participated with the team.